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Bringing it all together

Successful international expansion requires all departments of a business to work together as they would at home but also needs the collaboration of suppliers too. We found out more at our Live Event.

It’s a brave retailer who goes it alone on the international expansion trail for although there are those that manage it the time and effort it takes is dramatically reduced if you not only take on board the lessons of your peers but also embrace the learnings and expertise and aid of third party partners suppliers in your international expansion plans too.

At the presentation of our 2015 International Retailing Connected Commerce report in late June that was exactly our focus as our partners in this report talked around their take on international expansion and just how their businesses can help.

Our two partners, SDL and Electio, focus on two of the biggest challenges retailers still face and which were again highlighted as major issues in this year’s report – that of localisation and brand experience and delivery and returns respectively. As these two problems are so prevalent, and so interwoven for retailers, it was natural therefore that we brought these two brands together to understand more about what they can offer to retailers looking to build their brand overseas.

As many of the retailers in our report explained earlier picking the right market is key and retailers need to look more than just surface deep to understand if a market is right for them or not. “When considering expanding overseas it’s important you choose the right territories for the right reasons,” says Electio commercial director Andy Hill.

“It may not be best case to follow the competition or make a knee-jerk reaction because you have received an order from an international customer – you need to think deeper and understand more about what you want to achieve and choose the territory that is best for sales, growing profitability and growing your brand too,” he says.

He points out that sometimes retailers can make very fundamental mistakes simply by focusing on the power of their brand back home without taking into account local tastes or culture. “Think about how your product will translate into that market – for example eg home depot launched into China without realizing that china don’t do DIY,” he says.

Translating this brand experience, as we found out earlier on, is key. “It’s absolutely vital that from the first swipe or click of mouse you are building a positive brand experience,” says Anthony Letcher, head of customer experience strategy of SDL.

This is especially important given that retailers are competing with global businesses for the attention of customers. “The average customer has an attention span of only eight seconds which means you have just one chance to get it right but internationalisation brings a whole new load of challenges,” he says.

He points out that retailers need to think of everything from responsiveness of sites to pictures – for instance for new markets where the primary point of access to your site may be through a mobile device he says the whole experience has to be optimised specific to that device rather than more generically to suit a number of devices. “For those markets you need to ask yourself is the copy beautifully summarised? Is it short, sharp, snappy and tailored to that device? The same with imagery,” he says.

Systems also need to be able to cope with the increase in demand too. SDL customer FreestyleXtreme, profiled earlier in the report, was able to shave off 1.5 seconds from an ecommerce optimisation project by SDL that was focussed on enabling it to easily handle higher site traffic volumes and larger product inventories, allowing it to more easily serve its multiple markets.

Language is also important in ensuring an accurate replication of the brand message, as we found out earlier. “Language so much more than language translation your content is a key brand asset for your organisation but the content you have lovingly crafted to reflect your brand values – does that actually translate? It’s vital your brand values come through in a new market and your tone of voice is also vital to preserve the brand. What about the cultural context? What might be right in one market may not be right in another,” says Letcher.

All of this of course introduces an awful lot of complexity for the international retailer – and its marketing department. Letcher says that data is key but that many organisations aren’t yet able to effectively harness the digital data they are creating and often treat physical and online customers very differently. Letcher says that’s wrong. “You need to be able to create actionable insight and for offers to be relevant they must be tailored and targeted in the moment the customer receives them,” he says.

Letcher says that SDL have a new formula for customer experience success whether at home or abroad. “It’s about combining data, adding great content and multiplying that by context – such as the device, channel or location and time. That equals a great customer experience,” he says.

And as retailers know from their domestic markets the customer experience point doesn’t finish with the order on the website but extends through to the delivery of the item too meaning that as much visibility and transparency of this process is key.

“You need to learn how to handle international customers. For example there’s a higher propensity for an international customer to abandon their basket if they don’t have the right information about delivery so it’s important to give them lots of information about the delivery. Inflight communications is also more important than in the UK,” says Electio’s Hill. Indeed he points out the company’s own research which says that international customers are 15% more likely to contact retailers about an order than domestic customers are.

“Don’t expect one site to fit all because what works in one country doesn’t necessarily translate so well in another. Similarly if you are thinking of launching into an immature market your choice may be limited and you need to think about that for your brand experience,” says Hill.

He points out that retailers can also benefit from the option of having multiple rather than single logistics suppliers, something enabled through the company’s new Delivery Management Platform which connects retailers and carriers. “There is a risk of having a one size fits all strategy on a global basis for delivery because different markets have different needs and one carrier may not be able to meet all your customers’ expectations,” he says.

And retailers have to think beyond the order, as explained earlier. “Think about what the customer receives when they open their parcel on their kitchen table. Local language delivery and returns notes are important to give a seamless customer experience,” says Hill.

And of course this lead on to returns – another area where international expectations can also vary wildly. “It’s important to have your returns options localised and understand the importance of this – for instance don’t offer home returns where the preference is a drop-off point,” says Hill.

Indeed Electio is also working to help retailers centralise such complexities. “We are developing a global returns portal which will allow your customers to go online, transact and decide on the best route to get product back to you,” he says.

Find out more about what happened on the day by viewing the Connected Commerce website. You will be able to see the Editor’s overview of the report, hear speakers present their take on the importance of international and listen to exclusive interviews and a panel discussion with all of the partners involved.

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